Incident reports have two-fold value. First, they inform your friends and fellow skydivers about real-life experiences and reinforce the need for all of us to constantly review and practice emergency procedures for all sorts of scenarios. Second, incident reports provide data that we can use to track trends and detect growing problems.
With this year’s skydiving season now at the mid-point, we’ve got some great news to report on our initiative to solicit more incident reports: Many of you have responded to our plea and have begun submitting them. Compared to 2018, when USPA received only 29 incident reports all year, at the beginning of June this year, we’d already received 75 reports. This doesn’t mean that there are more incidents, but that we are now getting information on incidents that surely have been happening each year. Already more than doubling last year’s count is a great start for this season. Even better, we’ve been able to put these incident reports to work by retrieving data showing where our safety efforts need to focus. Nine of this year’s reports concerned the use of an automatic activation device, five of those during student training jumps. This data will help strengthen our student training programs to make such incidents rarer. Several of the reports involved spinning line twists, reinforcing that skydivers need to be much more prepared to cut away from a spinning main parachute with line twists.
Keep those incident reports coming. Make sure your skydiving friends and the community at large can learn from your experience. The process is easy and anonymous: Go to uspa.org/safety-training/incident-reports.
Although we are learning more than ever due to the increase in the reporting of non-fatal incidents, we unfortunately also continue to learn from the fatal mistakes of others. As of early June, there have been five skydiving fatalities in the U.S. In four of them, spinning malfunctions were a major factor. It can be said with some certainty that in each case, an earlier decision to cut away the spinning malfunction would have enabled a favorable outcome.
These fatal accidents and earlier, similar accidents, as well as multiple incident reports, have led USPA to create its latest safety campaign: Don’t Delay, Cut Away! Read about it in Director of Safety and Training Ron Bell’s article on page 56 of this issue. Note the article’s accompanying incident reports, particularly the experience level of some of the reporters: One jumper had more than 11,500 jumps; one had more than 4,000; and another had more than 2,450. Two had “decades of experience,” and one was an AFF instructor. Note that nearly all also had previous cutaways with no issues before their recently reported incidents.
The Don’t Delay, Cut Away campaign has two components: Decide sooner to cut away from spinning line twists, and be prepared for increased difficulty in cutting away, including the strong possibility that you’ll need both hands to peel and pull the cutaway handle.
“Don’t delay, cut away!” Say it when you touch your handles and practice your emergency procedures before each jump.
Ed Scott | D-13532 | USPA Executive Director